Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Cluck Cluck

About a month ago now I received an email, sent to all members of the SBM educational staff asking if anyone had any interest learning more about chickens, with the possibility of the museum starting a livestock program.

Strawbery Banke does not currently have a livestock program. Some of the tenants who rent apartments at the museum have dogs, there is a local cat named JD that considers the museum his territory, and there is a woodchuck that has taken up residence under the carpentry building (he has reduced Mrs. Shapiro's turnips to stalks.) but no deliberate programs. There is historical evidence of livestock in residence, I have heard stories of Mrs. Shapiro's chickens as well as the chickens raised behind the WWII Corner store. And I imagine with more research we could find plenty more evidence spanning the earlier centuries as well.

But Portsmouth is a small city, and SBM is right in the downtown area, so there is a lot of regulation zoning, and historical commissions in between SBM and a livestock program.

I'm sure you've figured it out by now, I answered the email. I was given the opportunity to attend a lovely workshop on backyard chicken farming at Hancock Shaker Village. Alysa came with me, so we got to tour the village in a freezing cold downpour. We were saved from misery by the adorable baby animals filling up the barn. Alysa fed the calfs and kids all afternoon while I learned all about chicken care.

But caring for chickens is not the only consideration in a museum setting. I reported on the workshop but only in brief because I did not feel like a chicken care report was needed. In the meantime, I've gone back to school.

Yup, I did not have quite enough on my plate, so I enrolled in a master's level course on museum evaluation. So far I am finding it fascinating and overwhelming at the same time. I am really enjoying learning about social research methods, as well as keeping up to date on the museum world. For the class our big project will be an evaluation of our own. Preferably at a museum with which we are affiliated. Guess what I chose to do mine on?

One of the questions I have about hosting chickens at SBM is the impact on visitors, so I mentioned in class the possibility of doing a visitor survey about chickens, and the professor thought it would be a great idea. We even used chickens at Strawbery Banke for a program theory mapping activity.

I let my boss know I'd be willing to put in some more hours to write up a study on the feasabity of a livestock program at SBM and that I'd like to do a visitor survey for my class as part of it. I got the okay late last week and now I've started slowly gathering my resources for a full out study. I must say I'm pretty excited at the prospect of engaging in a big study like this, and I'm just as interested to see what I will learn!

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic! What an excellent and exciting opportunity as well as an academic exercise for your Masters. Given the general public's awe of other historic daily activities (cooking for instance) I can only imagine the impact live animals will have on the vistors' experience.